Trump accuses 'dishonest' media of fabricating his well-documented feud with CIA

Ignoring his own provocative statements, at a speech at CIA headquarters President Trump accused journalists of fabricating his public quarrels with the intelligence community.

Carlos Barria/Reuters
President Trump delivers remarks Saturday during a visit to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) headquarters in Langley, Va., on his first full day in office.

On his first full day in office, President Trump visited the Central Intelligence Agency in an apparent bid to rebuild trust and cooperation between his administration and a segment of the federal workforce he has maligned in recent weeks.

As he stood in front of a marble wall marked with 117 stars to commemorate agency employees who died in the line of duty, he joked about the election, bragged about the crowds at his inauguration the day before, and zigzagged between messages of support for the intelligence community and denunciations of the news media. Ignoring the well-documented series of provocative statements he has made in recent weeks, he accused journalists of fabricating his quarrels with the intelligence community.

"I can only say that I am with you 1,000 percent," Mr. Trump told about 400 CIA workers, before shifting gears, as Politico reported. "And the reason you're my first stop ... is that as you know I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth. Right? And they sort of made it sound like I have this feud with the intelligence community."

But Trump's assertions do not square with his previous ones: Earlier this month, after a number of publications reported on the existence of an eyebrow-raising dossier packed with unverified claims – a document BuzzFeed decided to publish in full, drawing criticism from other outlets – Trump suggested that intelligence officials had leaked the document to undermine him.

"Are we living in Nazi Germany?" he asked Jan. 11 in a tweet – a line he repeated later that day during his first news conference as president-elect.

"I think it was disgraceful – disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake out. I think it’s a disgrace, and I say that – and I say that, and that’s something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do," Trump said. "I think it’s a disgrace that information that was false and fake and never happened got released to the public."

In two tweets on Jan. 15, he insinuated that CIA director John Brennan, who has since left office as part of the government transition, might have been "the leaker of Fake News." Mr. Brennan denied the allegation and through a spokesman denounced Trump's speech at the CIA.

Brennan is "deeply saddened and angered at Trump's despicable display of self-aggrandizement" in front of the CIA's memorial wall, and "Trump should be ashamed of himself," former CIA deputy chief of staff Nick Shapiro wrote Saturday in two tweets.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D) of California, ranking member in the US House Intelligence Committee, was among those who critiqued Trump's speech.

But the criticism did not fall neatly along party lines. Michael Hayden, a Republican former CIA director, said Trump fell short of his objective.

"I was heartened that the President gave a speech at CIA," Director Hayden told CNBC in an email. "It would have been even better if more of it had been about CIA."

The ostensible objective of Trump's visit to the CIA was to rebuild a collaborative spirit between his immediate team and the intelligence officials in the wake of the public quarrel. But the tension between the White House and the intelligence community is not novel to Trump's nascent administration, as The Christian Science Monitor's Peter Grier wrote last week. Many presidents past, especially Richard Nixon, have had friction with their intelligence services.

"In the end, however, almost all presidents have come to terms with and benefited from intelligence agency information flow," Mr. Grier wrote. "In part that’s because they all eventually face a global crisis where they need to know as much as possible, fast. In part that’s because the CIA and its fellows focus on making the relationship work. They see the president as their First Customer and know that POTUS can determine the extent of their influence on US national security."

Trump's pick to head the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R) of Kansas, is slated for confirmation Monday, and the hearings could serve as a milestone in the transition from former President Barack Obama's CIA and the one serving under Trump.

Even if a new director serves as an adequate liaison between the White House and intelligence officials, there is no sign yet that Trump has any plans to change his ways, including – perhaps foremost – an at-times brash tone.

"Stylistically, he’s a pugilist, with a penchant for sarcasm, bold, sometimes bombastic language, and a deep understanding of how to grab the headlines," Brian Rosenwald, political historian and media expert at the University of Pennsylvania, told the Monitor. "He’s also not bound by facts in the way that typical politicians would be."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Trump accuses 'dishonest' media of fabricating his well-documented feud with CIA
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today